Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  05/25/2010
Modified:  05/27/2010
Date Climbed:   05/23/2010
Author:  Carl
 North Maroon - North Face Ski Descent   

Peak: North Maroon
Route: North face ascent and descent
Vert: Approx. 4,500
Time: 7 hour ascent, 2.5 hour descent
Group: Carl (Wesley), Ben (Benners), Derek (drex27), & Marc

I had been eying this line for a while now. Ben, Marc, and I had been looking forward to this ski last year, but conditions and schedules never collided. While certainly not the toughest ski descent in the Elks, this face of North Maroon is highly visible and well regarded as an Aspen ski mountaineering test piece. Yesterday things came together perfectly, and it was well worth the wait.

I drove out to Aspen Saturday with my wife, confirmed Maroon Creek road opened for the season earlier that day, and made sure our route was in.

After a few drinks by the pool and a dinner at Campo, I hit up the mini-bar to see what items might prove useful the following morning. Bottled oxygen, check.

Met Marc, Ben, and Derek at the trail head at 3am Sunday morning. Less than half hour later we were headed up the well familiar trail in hiking shoes. Snow caused us to switch to boots before Crater Lake.

There were no tracks in the snow past Crater Lake, and shortly after we took the trail towards Buckskin Pass, we managed to find ourselves bushwhacking. This was no ordinary bushwhack, but rather the absolute worst any of us had ever encountered. Where the trail crosses that major avalanche chute, we had inadvertently hung a right, and proceeded to march directly uphill through the tangle of downed trees. Frustration was high, especially at the thought of how much time we were costing ourselves, but Derek kindly smiled for the camera.

My gps had the trail in it, so we powered it on, fought our way back to the trail, and hustled to make up for lost time. A couple hours later we were nearing 12,000ft on the apron of North Maroon.

Me pausing to take it in.

Photo by Derek

Ben and Marc also in awe, gazing up at the massive north face. Pyramid Peak in the background.

Photo by Derek

Since none of us had skied North Maroon before, we decided to climb the face to insure we could find a descent route. This also meant we felt comfortable leaving the rope etc. in the car since it would be mostly a snow climb. The climb gets your attention quickly nonetheless.

Photo by Derek

Note to self: watch out for 10 foot deep cracks in the snow.

The traverse above Miner's ski jump is long but straight forward. I don't think it exceeded 45 degrees.

Marc and Derek on the traverse.

The last forecast I saw called for 20 to 30mph winds with 55mph gusts. In reality, we were pleasantly surprised by the 0 to 5 mph winds until the summit, where we enjoyed maybe 10 to 15mph gusts. What we didn't enjoy was the snowpack. While the snow stayed fairly dry above 12,500ft our entire climb, it was not firm, and our boot packing was arduous.

Photo by Ben

After traversing about halfway across the north face of N. Maroon, we climbed up a couple hundred vertical feet until being forced to start navigating around some cliffs.


Photo by Ben

Traversing my way below the cliff band.

Photo by Derek

Derek and Ben climbing.

Looks like some great skiing to be had on Snowmass, for those willing to earn it.

Crater Lake, Maroon Lake, and Maroon Creek road are visible 4,000 ft below as we make slow progress through the deep snow. Continuing to assess conditions as we climb.

Photo by Derek

We passed the 13,600ft mark at 10am, the time by which I had really wanted to be starting the descent. The snowpack allowed us to continue our climb but we needed to keep the pace up. Derek had probably kicked the most steps up the face at this point, with Marc and Ben (who was still getting over a cold) taking their turns too. Time to do my part, so I pounded a Red Bull (the personal oxygen from the mini-bar was too pricey at $16.95), and slowly made deep tracks towards the left side of Punk Rock.

Marc, Ben, and Derek nearing Punk Rock.

Ben negotiating Punk Rock near 13,900ft. The exposure to the east was pretty intense at this point.

The group nearing the summit at 10:30am.

On the top.

Coverage on Maroon Peak looks nice.
Photo by Marc

Little time was spent on the summit before we were ready to drop. Derek clicked in.

Marc takes off first.

Ben making turns off the summit.

Soon you are reminded why this route has the reputation it does, as I am presented with a mandatory jump turn over massive exposure.
Photo by Marc

Ben managing Punk Rock.

That part behind us, Derek opens it up as Marc watches from above.

Marc riding the face.

Ben captures one of Derek and Pyramid.

Marc coming through one of the narrower sections with Ben waiting above.

Me heading through one of the few really tight sections on our descent.

Photo by Derek

Marc weaving his way towards Derek and I who are visible below. I think this picture Ben took shows the importance of climbing your descent route if no one in your party has skied the face before. It can be a little intimidating looking down through the cliff bands.

Pausing for a quick break on the descent.

Me heading towards the last crux of the north face.

Photo by Ben

Looking down.

Ben skiing towards the final obstacle.

Photo by Derek

Derek enjoying a few hundred more vertical before traversing back above Miners.


Another shot of Ben, almost to the traverse.

My turn.

Photo by Ben

Milking every last turn before making a hard left around the final cliff.

Photo by Ben

The mellow skiing from 12,400ft to treeline was really enjoyable, as Derek demonstrates.

Marc, justifiably excited to have snowboarded North Maroon.

Me, heading towards Maroon Lake.

Photo by Ben

Derek grabbed this shot on our way down and approximated the route.

Another angle, as I passed Maroon Lake around 1:30pm.

Derek opted for a dip in Maroon Lake. I chose the pool at our hotel back in town. It was still too early for the 3pm happy hour at Mezzaluna so we went for some BBQ at Hickory House and reflected on one of our most enjoyable 14er skis yet. Thanks guys, for another safe and incredible day in the mountains. Next year, lets take the ridge!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

05/25/2010 07:26
Way to get after it! Some of those shots are unreal - I really like the one of Derek with Pyramid as a backdrop.


05/25/2010 13:22
Looks like an awesome day guys - really getting after it!
Making the rest of us look lazy.

That shot of ben coming off Punk Rock is sweet.
great write up too!


05/25/2010 13:30
Great job guys - it would have been cool to make this trip! Glad you found great snow conditions and less-than-the-predicted winds! This gets me excited to ski the Bells!


05/25/2010 13:57
Looks awesome, I wish I could‘ve made it. Congrats on a kickass day.


05/25/2010 14:19
Nice write-up and pics, Carl! Way to get after it this spring!


Impressive job!
05/25/2010 15:13
Awesome photos and TR, Carl.


Awesome TR
05/25/2010 15:49
Thanks for some heart-pumping, breath-taking photos of your N. Maroon trip. No need for coffee to pep me up this morning after reading this TR. Thanks for delivering such great TRs all spring.


05/25/2010 16:51
that punk rock band looks damn exposed. Nice work Carl, should‘ve forked up the cash for the bottled oxygen. That, along with a Red Bull, you could‘ve floated up the mountain. I hate it when the weatherman is wrong in the winter, but love it when he‘s wrong in the spring. We, too, didn‘t experience too much wind either.


taking it up a notch...
05/25/2010 17:14
after first graduating on the Chicago Basin ‘teeners. Nice! Great pictures. ”I think this picture Ben took shows the importance of climbing your descent route if no one in your party has skied the face before. It can be a little intimidating looking down through the cliff bands” :- Yeah


Nice work!
05/25/2010 17:21
Some of that skiing looks REALLY exposed, and I bet the route finding was a bit difficult at times!


05/25/2010 17:30
Photos depict the slope angle and exposure well. What an accomplishment! Great TR, thanks.


05/25/2010 18:00
Congrats on a great day! Thanks for the great photography.


Beautiful shots ...
05/25/2010 19:10
Way too difficult to choose a favorite. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Uh, WOW!
05/25/2010 20:08
Thanks for sharing this. My palms are sweaty just looking at the amazing pictures and imagining the exposure.


05/25/2010 20:35
One intense trip report to read, as well as congrats to the group, hell of an accomplishment there.


05/25/2010 21:05
Wesley, that is a great ride. Thanks for sharing!!!


Cajones Mas Grandes!
05/25/2010 21:10
The exposure to the east was pretty intense at this point.

Understatement of the early spring. Just incredible, men.


Great TR and pics!
05/25/2010 22:32
Really liked the pics of all of you...especially the pic of Derek with Pyramid in the background!

Congrats to you all!


Nice job, gents!
05/26/2010 00:42
That is one awesome ski run. Kinda like Walsh‘s, x6, stacked on top of one another, with the exposure thrown in to boot. Way to persevere on a tough climb too.


Nice Fellas
05/26/2010 02:13
Glad you finally got that one D. Probably made it look easy too.


Nice TR
05/27/2010 18:03
Sums up the day well, nice one Carl!


Get ‘r‘ Done
05/27/2010 16:13
You sure are setting the standard out there Wesley. Glad to have met you on Culebra!


05/28/2010 17:13
Way to go on this one. Looked like a lot of fun and great snow conditions! Days like that will hang in your mind for a long time...

Easy Rider

05/28/2010 21:54
nice bushwhackin‘


Rock and freaking roll
05/29/2010 17:14
It‘s trip reports like this that motivate me to continue to push my skills one step at a time - I‘d love to make that journey someday. Beautiful pics and great job. I grant thee 5 stars!!


Yeah Buddies!
08/30/2011 23:28
the pic of the ”mandatory jump turn over massive exposure” gave me goosebumps! congrats on an amazing climb and descent! I cant even imagine how good the Hickory House would have been afterwards...

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